News

New rules should ease Obama health-law burden

New rules should ease Obama health-law burden

A Tea Party member reaches for a pamphlet titled "The Impact of Obamacare", at a "Food for Free Minds Tea Party Rally" in Littleton, New Hampshire in this October 27, 2012 file photo. Photo: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi//Files

By Kim Dixon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday issued proposed rules aimed at easing the requirements for companies and insurers when they report employees’ health coverage information to comply with President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.

The proposed regulations are a key element of the employer mandate portion of the law. Implementation of the rules had been delayed while the Treasury Department attempted to simplify them to address concerns of employers.

“We will continue to consider ways, consistent with the law, to simply the new information reporting process,” said Mark Mazur, assistant treasury secretary for tax policy.

The law, widely known as Obamacare, requires employers with 50 or more workers to offer their full-time employees a minimum level of health insurance coverage or be subject to a fee.

If companies do not offer coverage and have at least one full-time worker receiving government tax credits to buy insurance, employers are assessed a fee of $2,000 per full-time employee, excluding the first 30 workers.

The administration caused a stir in July when it unexpectedly delayed the effective date for the reporting and for the employer mandate itself to 2015 from 2014.

Retailers in particular had complained about the law’s detailed reporting requirements. A trade group commended the Obama administration for taking action to lighten the burden of the law. But the group’s lobbyist said the administration did not go far enough.

“One thing retailers and other employers hate more than anything else is sending the same information to different agencies,” said Neil Trautwein with the National Retail Federation, which represents Wal-Mart, Macy’s Inc. and others.

The group wants the Internal Revenue Service to work with the Health and Human Services Administration to simplify the rules further.

Although the employer mandate has been delayed, the separate requirement that all individuals carry health insurance or pay a fee, goes into effect on January 1, 2014.

Thursday’s proposal would, among other things, eliminate the need for employers to determine whether particular employees are full-time where adequate coverage is offered to all “potentially full-time employees.” It also would let employers report specific costs for health plans only if the cost is above a certain threshold dollar amount.

The proposed rules would also allow, in certain instances, the reporting of healthcare information on W-2 tax forms that employers issue to workers, rather than a separate statement.

When the government delayed the effective dates of the mandate and reporting, they requested that companies voluntarily report starting in 2014.

Cathy Livingston, who worked on the health care rules as an IRS attorney, said it is likely that “a very limited number of entities would voluntarily choose to report.”

“Employers and insurers will likely take a pass,” said Livingston, now in private practice at Jones Day.

Recent Headlines

in Local

Cameras and Microphones Could Be Used in Sangamon Co. Trial Coverage

sangamon_county_building_4

There could be extended coverage of Sangamon County's court system coming to a radio or television near you.

in Local

Manar: Rauner Has Changed During Budget Process

manar_ed_funding

One local lawmaker says it's not the same Governor Bruce Rauner talking about the budget now as it was a few months ago.

in Local

State Police, IDOT Give R-E-S-P-E-C-T — and H-E-L-P — to Aretha Franklin

New York premiere of 'Selma' at Ziegfeld Theater - Red carpet arrivals

Featuring: Aretha Franklin
Where: New York City, New York, United States
When: 14 Dec 2014
Credit: Ivan Nikolov/WENN.com

Aretha Franklin's spokesman says the Queen of Soul is grateful to the state of Illinois for its help when her tour bus broke down on the way to Chicago.

in Local

Mel Reynolds No-Show for Arraignment

tax

Former U.S. Congressman Mel Reynolds has failed to appear at a scheduled arraignment to enter a plea on federal tax charges.

in Local

Iowa Prisoner Used Pipes to Escape

jail

Authorities say an Iowa inmate later caught in Henry County, Illinois managed to escape from one of the state's most secure cells by sneaking through the building's piping and onto the roof.